Bell (bo zhong)

Anonymous, Chinese
Bell (bo zhong)
China, Eastern Zhou or Warring States period
Eastern Zhou, early Warring States period, late 5th–early 4th century B.C.
Metal vessel, Metal instrument
h. to head 19.2 cm., h. to top of hanger 25.8 cm., dims. at rim 17.0 x 12.6 cm.
Museum purchase from the C. D. Carter Collection, with funds given by the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation

This bo zhong bell has a pointed elliptical cross section, level rim, flat top, a suspension hanger, and the bronze surface is covered with a gray-green patina. The prominent hanger has an inverted U-shaped bar supported on each side by a large feline with a beaked animal emerging from it jaws and with a small feline in back. The body of this bell is divided into three decorative registers. Along the top, and also carried down the sides of the bell, is a narrow band with comma, spiral, and granulated patterns. The large middle register has an undecorated, tall trapezoidal panel flanked by three registers with ornamented bosses set in rectangular frames alternating with two registers decorated with comma patterns. The bottom register has a large, raised, symmetric design on a plain ground. The design is composed of interlace bands decorated with volutes and spiral patterns, and in the top center are scaled motifs that resemble dragon heads. The two halves of the design were executed with different pattern blocks, as evidenced by the vertical misalignment where they joined at the center.

At the outer edges of the bell are vertical mold marks where the front and back piece-molds joined. Decorative pattern-blocks were used to form the individual framed bosses and other motifs across the faces and top of the bell. An additional mold line along the central long axis across the top, suggests separate piece-molds were used to cast the upper surface and the hanger. On the interior, two depressions are found on each wall behind the central register of bosses. After casting, the bell was tuned by scraping away metal on the interior walls.

Comparison of this bell to other vessels having an identical decorative scheme, or having a similar style, indicates that it may have been produced in the Chu state in north-central China during the early Warring States period.

Elemental Analysis

Exceptionally low lead content (0.38%), copper 79.4%, tin 17.8%.

Published References & Reproductions

Nathaniel Spear, Jr., A Treasury of Archaeological Bells (New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1978), p. 40, fig. 23.

E. Von Erdberg, Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter (Ascona: Artibus Asiae, 1978), no. 92, pp. 162-65, 236.

Selections from The Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1986), p. 194 (illus.).

Hayashi Minao 巳奈夫, Shunjū Sengoku jidai seidōki no kenkyū (In Shū Seidōki sōran san) 春秋戰國時代青銅器の研究 (殷周青銅器綜覽三) (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 1989), p. 200, no. 34.

Jenny So., Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (New York: Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1995), no. 79, pp. 385-87, 184.